Budapest, Hungary – In a report published last week, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, criticised Hungary’s treatment of migrants in recent years.
Following an eight-day visit to the country, he particularly condemns the country’s 2015 decision to declare a state of emergency over the so-called refugee crisis, and strongly criticises the country’s controversial ‘transit zones’ as being de-facto detention facilities.
The UN report found “very restrictive” conditions for migrants throughout Hungary.
“There is no mass influx of immigration”
Gonzalez Morales also accuses the government of exploiting the perceived threat posed by a falsely perceived migrant influx for political gains, declaring that there was “no mass influx of migrants and asylum seekers” to Hungary, and calling “upon the Hungarian government to end the declaration of a migration crisis and to update the measures linked to it.”
He added that “if in reality there is no mass influx of immigration, the security situation cannot be considered the same as four years ago.”
In 2015, 175,000 people applied for asylum in Hungary against merely 635 applications last year.
“A prison-like environment”
The UN’s special rapporteur particularly condemns the practice of holding migrants in transit zones on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia. “It’s a prison-like environment, it’s detention,” says Gonzalez Morales about the controversial transit zones set up in 2017 to serve as one-stop centers to file asylum applications.
He describes the hygienic conditions in the transit zones as “satisfactory” but also claim that women and children with chronic diseases and cancer had remained untreated for months.
“One pregnant woman was escorted by 17 guards on her way to the hospital for a regular pregnancy check-up,” he says in the report.
In a press conference, he also said that an asylum-seeking woman who recently had an operation at the local hospital had been handcuffed to the bed for five days without sufficient food. He also added that “children should not be put in detention based on their migration situation.”
Half of the 280 people currently held in transit zones are believed to be underage.
“The fence will stay”
In response to the UN special rapporteur’s public appeal, Tamas Menczer, Hungary’s State Secretary for Information and International Representation, replied in an online video that migration still remained a “problem” and that “the fence will stay where it is as it serves the security of the Hungarian people.”
“Over the last few years, we’ve had 30 terror attacks, more than 300 people were killed and over 1,300 were injured,” he argued.
“The UN Special Rapporteur is criticising us because we don’t let migrants move around freely in Hungary. He judges us because of the border fence and the transit zones. But the fence will stay where it is because it protects the Hungarian people,” he added.
You can read more about Hungary’s migrant crisis and the controversial transit zones in Iván Merker’s piece for Kafkadesk, The Borders of Justice: Human Rights Violations at Hungary’s Southern Borders.